CHENNAI: Mata Hari was a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who was convicted of being a spy for Germany during World War I, but she has transcended beyond that to symbolize the entire concept of a femme fatale. There are countless films based on this concept and that’s where Netflix’s “She,” directed by Arif Ali, loses a few points on the originality scoreboard.
On top of that, the writing in the seven-episode series is patchy. Created by Imtiaz Ali, “She” is a drama in which a policewoman is picked to bust a huge drug cartel in Mumbai. Cliched in several ways, especially where gender dynamics are at work (with men in uniform looking down on their female counterparts), she takes a while to grab the viewer’s attention with a distinct lack of energy. And despite Imtiaz Ali having collaborated with writer Divya Johri, the male gaze is unwarranted and disturbing.
Bhumi Pardesi (played by Aaditi Pohankar) catches the eye of her boss, Jason Fernandez (Vishwas Kini), who recruits her to infiltrate the ranks of the top drug dealers in Mumbai and she is asked to pose as a prostitute. Living in a slum with her perennially ill mother and a wayward younger sister, Bhumi is the sole bread winner. With a divorce pending in court – and the man making the most shocking demands in order to agree to the divorce, Bhumi’s life is nothing short of hell.
Sadly, even before she is ready, Bhumi is pushed into the dangerous game. Her brief? Cosy up to Sasya (Vijay Varma), the trusted lieutenant of the kingpin in order to get to the bottom of the crime syndicate. Bhumi hates walking the streets at night, but she does not want to go back to her old life in the police department where she is constantly humiliated and harassed.
Pohankar does her best to keep the series alive and her metamorphosis from a nervous wreck into the epitome of courage is quite interesting, but somehow the shoddy writing wipes away at her sheen. Varma essays a cocky henchman and does provide a bit of a laugh and liveliness.
Hopefully, season two of “She” may address these issues.